Taking back the web

Something has been bothering me for a while. It feels wrong to exchange the use of free, cool software for complete loss of control over my personal data. The increasing professionalism of the web in grabbing your attention also feels wrong. Here are a few facts:

Google's business model does not provide you with good, free software (and yes, from a software engineering standpoint, their products, including Android, Google Docs, Maps, and of course, their search engine, are groundbreaking inventions that are wonderfully implemented). Their business model involves collecting as much data as possible about your preferences, location, concerns, and physical information, and selling it to the highest bidder without your knowledge or consent.

Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube's business model is not about adding value to your life or providing reliable and entertaining information. Instead, it is about keeping you glued to their app for as long as possible, so they can serve you as many ads as possible. The key concept here is 'engagement': These platforms have developed sophisticated algorithms that learn from your behaviour and show you content that is most likely to keep you engaged with them, scrolling, preventing you from leaving and living your life.

SEO, the art of optimizing your writing not for people, but for search engines, is crucial in today's digital landscape. If you run a blog or website, using platforms like WordPress, you will receive tools to help you maximise relevance for search engines. Each sentence is analysed and given a percentage score. It is important to aim for a score as close to 100% as possible, otherwise, your content may be buried deep in the web and remain unseen by potential viewers.

And it works both ways, which is the worst part. In his book 'Technofeudalism', Yanis Varoufakis, a Greek economist, former finance minister of Greece (and communist), explains the vicious cycle we are trapped in. We are being manipulated and steered by the content that is selected for us in search results and web shops. Clicking on some items and not others helps algorithms steer us better. This benefits corporations that serve us content. Excellent read.

The only way to escape this problematic business model, where you are the product rather than the customer, is to switch to software where you are the customer, and ensure that you control your data and privacy. This may require paying for content that you previously obtained for 'free' elsewhere. But using them you can see the results that are best for you, rather than what maximizes their profit. The sites listed below are not expensive. Perhaps they are worth considering?

Kagi - an alternative to Google search

Kagi is a paid, ad-free search engine that prioritises user privacy and customisation. Unlike Google, Kagi does not track user searches or actions. It offers advanced features such as category filtering through "lenses", article summaries, and AI-related features. A subscription is required after an initial 100 free searches, with different tiers available for varying levels of access and features. The "starter" tier costs $4.50 per month and allows for 3600 searches per year. I am subscribed to the "professional" tier for $9 per month, which provides unlimited searches and access to FastGPT and the AI summarizer, both of which I find very useful.


mailbox.org is a German mail provider, focused on privacy, no tracking. It has plans from 1 to 9 Euros a month. I'm happy user for a decade or so, using the 3€ plan. Their features are on par with the best you can have - spam protection, web UI + standard protocol support etc.